My First Rifle: Real Guns For Kids Stir Controversy

Crickett rifles come in a range of colors and are made especially for kids. (Photo: Crickett.com)The company that makes real guns for children has taken down its website after a 5-year-old boy in southern Kentucky allegedly shot his 2-year-old sister by accident with a Crickett gun he received for his birthday.

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While giving a kid a gun at all seems outrageous to people along the coasts of the United States, in many, often rural, parts of the country, learning how to shoot at a very early age is a normal part of life.

“People learn how to shoot before they learn how to read,” Jeff Booher, 53, told The New York Daily News. The Cumberland County, Kentucky, resident said that he taught his own kids (now ages 22, 12, and 9) how to use a gun when they were just 4 or 5 years old.

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Crickett's "My First Rifle" and other firearms are made by Keystone Sporting Arms, a father-and-son-owned gunmaker that has been selling "quality firearms for American's youth" since 1996, according to their website. Their slogan, "My First Rifle," is accompanied by a cartoon cricket on the company's website. While the Crickett site is currently down following backlash from critics this past week, another Keystone site selling firearms for kids, Chipmunk Rifles, is still up and running.

"The goal of KSA is to instill gun safety in the minds of youth shooters and encourage them to gain the knowledge and respect that hunting and shooting activities require and deserve," the Pennsylvania-based company says on its website. (You can see pictures from their special "Kids Corner" here.) Crickett rifles are still available at Walmart and other retailers.

"This is not about Crickett Firearms," Keystone's attorney, John Renzulli told told Mother Jones. "We need to respect the privacy of these people, this family is going through a lot. We're not going to analyze and evaluate what happened here until a full investigation has been conducted by law enforcement. At that point we'll comment."

Renzulli said that the Crickett website had been "inundated and corrupted" by visitors and was shut down, not by Keystone, but by the website hosting service because of the flood of traffic. "We're working hard with the host to get the site up again," he added. Crickett did not respond to Shine's request for a statement by press time.

"It's just one of those nightmares," Kentucky State Police Trooper Billy Gregory told CNN. "A quick thing that happens when you turn your back."